PEI

Crow poop is gross, but is it a health risk?

Charlottetown residents have noticed recently that crows seem to be finding their way to new neighbourhoods. And where crows go, crow poop soon follows. So, is your back patio or four-door hatchback dangerous if it's covered in excrement?

Infection control officer says a little basic hygiene will solve most problems

Some Charlottetown residents say crows are showing up in new areas of the city, and where crows go, crow poop follows. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

It's gross, but is it a health risk?

Charlottetown residents have noticed recently that crows seem to be flying their way to neighbourhoods beyond their well-known roosting grounds in Victoria Park and Brighton. And where crows go, crow poop soon follows.

So, is your back patio or four-door hatchback dangerous if it's covered in excrement?

Dr. J McClure, an infection control officer at the Atlantic Veterinary College, said people who suddenly find their backyards covered in crow droppings have very little to worry about.

Salmonella and campylobacter

"With any bird, probably the two most common things people worry about that's in their feces would be salmonella and campylobacter," he told CBC Radio's Island Morning. "These are very common ... food-borne pathogens that we get with chicken and other meats, but particularly chicken, and wild birds can carry it as well."

The major symptoms of both infections are gastrointestinal problems, particularly diarrhea. They occasionally require medical attention because they can lead to dehydration or fevers, McClure said.

That's the bad news. The good news is that simply wearing gloves and washing your hands if and when you come in contact with crow poop should be enough to mitigate the "fairly mild" risk.

"Good hygiene and cleanup is going to save you," he said.

He did note that if you plan to disinfect a surface, you first have to clean it. "Just applying a disinfectant without cleaning with soap and water and getting the organic material off there is not going to be as effective."

Dogs can get salmonella and campylobacter, McClure said, but are relatively resistant to them compared to humans. In fact, he said when he does see a salmonella infection in a dog it's usually because the dog is on a raw-food diet.

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